Analysis and Commentary on Other Commentary

Citation as DNA

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Justia guest columnist, Cornell law professor emeritus, and former dean of Cornell Law School Peter W. Martin explores how citation format can be used to expose the true parentage of a case law collection, such as that of Westlaw, LexisNexis, Bloomberg Law, and other case law database services. Martin describes his methodology and calls attention to the existence of differences among the major database services. He questions whether these differences even matter to a majority of practitioners, judges, and librarians but cautions that for the sake of authenticity and reliability, they perhaps should matter.

Sperm Donors on the Large and Small Screen

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Justia columnist and Hofstra law professor Joanna Grossman comments on instances of real-life and fictional complications regarding sperm donation. The fictional story is told through the Vince Vaughan film Deliveryman. The real-life stories are told on a new MTV show, Generation Cryo, which depicts the quest of a teenage girl to meet her fifteen half-siblings and the anonymous sperm donor responsible for all of their conceptions.

The Weight of Capital Punishment on Jurors, Justices, Governors, & Executioners

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Justia guest columnist and Loyola Law School professor Paula Mitchell continues her series of columns on the death penalty, describing the punishment’s effect on jurors, justices, governors, and executioners. She presents testimonies from various people involved in different parts of the process of capital sentencing and execution. She concludes that the public should consider the impact capital punishment has on those individuals who have to make the decisions of life and death.

What’s Wrong With In Vitro Meat?

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Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Sherry Colb argues that eating meat from a laboratory culture does not allow diners to evade the ethical problems that otherwise arise from eating meat. For one thing, Colb explains how animals still die from cultured meat, for contrary to popular belief, cultured meat, contrary to popular belief, involves the use and slaughter of animals, as Colb explains. Colb also notes that, unlike a person who needs an organ transplant and has no alternative, a person who buys In Vitro meat has numerous vegan alternatives.

The Legal Significance of the Leo Frank Case

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Justia guest columnist and Touro Law Center professor Rodger Citron comments on the historic case of Leo Frank, who was convicted of the murder of a woman who worked at the factory he managed, and ultimately lynched by an angry mob, but might well have been innocent. Citron focuses on the case's legal significance as this year marks the 100th anniversary of Frank's conviction, noting two key lessons that we can take from it.

California Voters’ Shifting Views on the Death Penalty

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Justia guest columnist and Loyola Law School professor Paula Mitchell describes California voters' changing views on the death penalty. She provides several possible explanations for the death penalty's decreasing support, including the presence of high-profile cases where an innocent person was sentenced to death, lower concerns about crime rates, and the high economic costs of maintaining capital punishment in the state. This is the first of a series of columns by Mitchell discussing the death penalty in California.

Advice for the Law School Class of 2016: Ten Suggestions for Incoming Law Students

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Justia columnist and U.C., Davis law professor Vikram David Amar offers advice for those who are starting law school this Fall. Amar bases his advice on his own experience as a law student, as a practicing lawyer, and as someone who has taught at four law schools over the past two decades. He offers certain advice that is intuitive but very much worth keeping in mind, and certain advice that is less intuitive and also worth poring over before classes start.

Has Behavioral Law and Economics Jumped the Shark? Understanding When a Promising Research Agenda Has Run Its Course—And Why It Matters in the Real World

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Justia columnist, George Washington law professor, and economist Neil Buchanan comments on the school of thought known as Behavioral Law & Economics (BL&E) and questions its current and future relevance. Is the writing on the wall for this discipline, which treats people not like rational maximizers, as Economics does, but as fallible humans? Some think so, for, as Buchanan points out, many concepts in BL&E are so broad and open-ended that they can lead in almost any direction. Buchanan's piece contains, among other interesting examples, a notable analysis of the tax/penalty debate that was important to the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and the related Supreme Court decision.

The Boycott of the Upcoming Ender’s Game Film: Is It Justified?

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Justia columnist and attorney Julie Hilden comments on the movement toward a boycott of the Lionsgate film Ender’s Game—which will premiere in November—due to the homophobic views of the author, Orson Scott Card, on whose book the film will be based. Hilden considers the responses to the controversy from Lionsgate, and from Card himself, and finds them wanting—especially Card’s. Hilden also notes that while Card’s bestselling books often and movingly invoke empathy for the other, Card, ironically, seems to have little empathy for GLBT people.

Antipathy to Lawyers and Litigation as a “Bullies Will Be Bullies” Attitude

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Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Sherry Colb looks at the possible roots of many Americans’ antipathy to lawyers and litigation. This hostility, Colb suggests, likely stems from a mindset, shared by Republicans and Democrats alike, that holds that the law should not intervene in private interactions. Thus, Americans may be surprised to learn that medical malpractice suits actually make us safer, or that bringing lawyers into a business dispute might at times be the right thing to do. The American way, many think, is instead to work things out on one’s own. But the flaw in that thinking, Colb suggests, is that the disputants in a disagreement may well have significantly unequal power—a situation that often calls for the law to intervene. Colb also contrasts criminal prosecutions with civil litigation, noting that Americans are typically much more comfortable with the former (with some exceptions, like “date rape” prosecutions) than they are with the latter. Finally, Colb contends that we should see anti-lawyer prejudice as, at times, a form of bullying, for sometimes only legal intervention can ensure a fair outcome.

Changing Our Attitudes Toward Health Policies

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Justia columnist and attorney David Kemp discusses two recent issues that have come up in recent news related to health and health policy. The first issue Kemp discusses is that of breast cancer prevention and treatment, in light of a New York Times op-ed written by actress and director Angelina Jolie. The second issue is the recent and alarming outbreak of bacterial meningitis in New York City, particularly among gay and bisexual men. Kemp compares and contrasts the two issues, arguing that there is no place for moral approbation or judgment in the prevention and treatment of these diseases or any others.

Abuse in the Sports World, and What Needs to Be Done About It

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Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton discusses abuse in the world of sports, including school, amateur and professional sports. While child sex abuse has been a problem in this world, physical, emotional, and verbal abuse are far too common, and need to stop as well, Hamilton urges. She cites the example of Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice, but stresses that Rice is far from alone in his abusive behavior. And, Hamilton notes, it is a problem that athletes looking for—or wanting to continue with—college scholarships feel that they have no other choice but to take the abuse. Hamilton asks us all to imagine sports as it should be: free of bullying and fear, and offers a model code of conduct for sports addressing the various forms of abuse that athletes may suffer, as well as reporting requirements when abuse does occur.

Unfortunately, Conspiracy Theorists Are Now Busy Concocting Bizarre Explanations of The Boston Marathon Bombing

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Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean discusses the troubling conspiracy theories that have arisen in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing—including the “false flag attack” claim postulating that the Boston bombing was the work of the government, intended to result in taking weapons away from Americans. Dean discusses these and other conspiracy theories, and why some people believe in them, drawing in part on academic papers on the subject. Dean also notes the role of the conspiracy entrepreneurs, who profit in some way from propagating the belief in the conspiracy, and the cost we may be paying for the popularity of conspiracy theories, particularly ones that are anti-government.

Disruption in the Legal Industry: A Librarian’s Perspective

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Justia guest columnist, law librarian, and attorney Sarah Glassmeyer comments on the increasing privatization of legal research materials, leading many legal sources to be inaccessible to the poor and even the middle class. Glassmeyer argues that the current state of legal publishing needs to be disrupted, for it is badly broken. She urges that access to primary legal content, without additional original content attached, should be free to all—especially in an era where, she notes, 80 percent of people who want legal representation cannot afford it. Glassmeyer notes that instead of providing increased access, some companies try to privatize primary legal content using a variety of strategies.

A New Pope, A New Beginning for Clergy Child Sex Abuse Survivors? Why It’s Unlikely

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Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton predicts that the new Pope, formerly the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, will be no more successful than his predecessor in effectively addressing the Catholic Church’s problem with clergy child sex abuse. In making her case, Hamilton cites the name the new Pope chose, Francis for St. Francis Xavier, not St. Francis of Assisi; and the fact that he is a Jesuit—and thus a member of an order that despite the respect it claims still has clergy child abuse problems and problems with related cover-ups. Hamilton also points out that Pope Francis—unlike Cardinal Oullet of Canada, another top contender—has not been an outspoken critic of clergy child abuse. For these and other reasons, Hamilton predicts that true reform in this area will only come from the legal system, not the Church.

Reforming the Legal Profession: The Need for Adequate Career Advice Before Law School

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Justia columnist and attorney David Kemp discusses the disparity between legal education and the legal profession. He describes the strengths and shortcomings of a legal education as provided by many law schools today. He then contrasts what law school provides with what is actually demanded of attorneys, finding that there is a sharp discontinuity between the two. He argues that while some measures have been undertaken to fix the problem, such as revised curricula and state certification of limited-license legal technicians, no solution can be adequate without also considering the career advice that students receive prior to deciding on a legal career and applying to law school.

A Review of the Documentary Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, Which Reveals the Paradigm of Institution-based Child Sex Abuse

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Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton reviews a recent HBO Films documentary about child sex abuse within the Catholic Church, noting that the paradigm that the documentary reveals also applies to many other institutions where child sex abuse has occurred, including Penn State, the Boy Scouts, other religious groups, other schools, and many more. Mea Maxima Culpa is especially heart-wrenching, Hamilton explains, because the victims of sex abuse were deaf boys, and some of their families had never learned to sign—making them all the more vulnerable to the predation. The documentary, Hamilton contends, surely deserves an Oscar nod, especially as it captures the paradigm of institution-based abuse, covering the victims, the perpetrators, and the institution.

George McGovern: R.I.P. (1922–2012)

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Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean comments on the life and times of former Senator George McGovern, who recently passed away. In addition to chronicling the key events of McGovern's life, McGovern’s passionate campaign to eradicate hunger, and his own friendship with McGovern, Dean also comments on the perhaps unlikely friendship between McGovern, a Democrat, and Republican Senator Barry Goldwater—the kind of cross-party bond, forged to serve the good of the nation, that Dean notes that we are, unfortunately, unlikely to see today.

Meet our Columnists

Vikram David Amar

Vikram David Amar is the Dean and Iwan Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Illinois College of Law. Immediately prior to taking the position at Illinois, Amar served as the Senior Assoc... more

Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan is an economist and legal scholar and a Professor of Law at The George Washington University. He teaches tax law and tax policy, and he has taught contract law, law and economics, and... more

Sherry F. Colb

Sherry F. Colb is Professor of Law and Charles Evans Hughes Scholar at Cornell University. Colb teaches courses in constitutional criminal procedure, evidence, and animal rights. She has published a... more

John Dean

John Dean served as Counsel to the President of the United States from July 1970 to April 1973. Before becoming White House counsel at age thirty-one, he was the chief minority counsel to the Judiciar... more

Michael C. Dorf

Michael C. Dorf is the Robert S. Stevens Professor of Law at Cornell University Law School. He has written hundreds of popular essays, dozens of scholarly articles, and four books on constitutional la... more

Joanna L. Grossman

Joanna L. Grossman is the Ellen K. Solender Endowed Chair in Women and Law at SMU Dedman School of Law.  She is an expert in sex discrimination law. Her most recent book,  more

Marci A. Hamilton

Marci A. Hamilton is one of the country’s leading church-state scholars and the Fox Professor of Practice and Fox Family Pavilion Resident Senior Fellow in the Program for Research on Religion in the... more

David S. Kemp

David S. Kemp is an attorney and managing editor at Justia. He received his B.A. in Psychology from Rice University and his J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law (Boalt Hall)... more

Joseph Margulies

Mr. Margulies is a Professor of Law and Government at Cornell University. He was Counsel of Record in Rasul v. Bush (2004), involving detentions at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Station, and in more

Anita Ramasastry

Anita Ramasastry is the UW Law Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle, where she also directs the graduate program on Sustainable International Developmen... more

Ronald D. Rotunda

Ronald D. Rotunda is the Doy & Dee Henley Chair and Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence, at Chapman University, Fowler School of Law. He joined the faculty in 2008. Before that, he was Univ... more